HatchSpace reached out to the community and the community answered: Local people wanted an honest-to-goodness woodworking shop, and that’s what they got.
The nonprofit woodworking makerspace in Brattleboro was launched in February. Equal parts school, studio and gallery, it serves as a community resource for both newbies and master woodworkers — a place where people can share ideas and work together, creating meaningful and lasting relationships.
Members have the opportunity to share tools, including expensive industrial equipment that the average hobbyist is unlikely to have in their own shop — for instance, a 22-inch planer and a massive, 44-inch belt sander. More importantly, members share knowledge, making themselves available to other members who need guidance or assistance.
Board president Tom Bodett, of Dummerston, Vt., is a writer, NPR humorist, storyteller and lifelong carpenter and furniture maker. He said HatchSpace evolved as a direct response to the community’s needs.
Membership leveled off at around 40 early this spring and, by design, has remained there. Executive director — and professional cabinetmaker — Greg Goodman is the only paid staff member.
Its inspiration was a response to the increasing disappearance of shop classes from public schools. While Bodett and Goodman sourced some pieces of equipment from auctions and others from local makers downsizing a home shop, many tools came from area schools that had closed their shop programs.
The mission of HatchSpace is to introduce and preserve the art of woodcraft. Bodett sought advice from Roy Schlieben of MaxT Makerspace in Peterborough, who suggested he let the community dictate the role of HatchSpace in the community.
For advice on teaching their craft, Bodett and Goodman turned to HatchSpace advisory board member Dyllan Nguyen of The Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts in Boston, one of the oldest arts-and-crafts schools in the country.
Education is a primary goal of HatchSpace, which was in the works for two and half years before opening at its 19,000-square-foot space. It shares a building with Mocha Joe’s Roasting on Frost Street, just outside downtown Brattleboro.
The board settled on the space after looking at several in and around Brattleboro. It was important HatchSpace be located downtown for accessibility and also to create a prominent destination address.
“We anticipate becoming part of a revitalizing downtown scene,” said Bodett.
At first, Bodett explained, the schedule at HatchSpace was divided between assisted and unassisted shop hours and organized classes to test the waters. They closely watched what was happening on the shop floor and listened to members and users.
What became of the 10-month experiment was that community members wanted more hands-on instruction, and HatchSpace’s vision was revised to emphasize a broad selection of classes open to the public — some introductory and some intensive, and some taught by notable master craftspeople from around the country.
HatchSpace offers several beginning woodworking for women courses, as well as basic woodworking in general: bandsaw box making, turning, carving and finishing among them.
HatchSpace’s most popular course this past summer was a build-your-own skateboard camp in cooperation with the Boys and Girls Club of Brattleboro.
Nonmembers can also now pay $15 per hour for an open shop class, which allows them to come to the shop and work on their own projects under the supervision of experienced staff. The makerspace is also actively seeking members who will mentor as well as learn.
Once a member is accepted, they will be issued a pass key that will allow them to use the shop during any of the open shop hours, or to attend the Shop Class hours free of charge. Yearly membership (which costs $990) is required; and classes for nonmembers range from $45 to $325. Members receive a steep discount and scholarship money is available.
HatchSpace isn’t a traditional makerspace as much as it is a woodshop operating under the makerspace philosophy.
“We knew only one thing when we opened the doors,” said Bodett. “We want to be the best, most-accessible and rewarding woodworking space we can be. I feel more confident than ever that we are well on our way down that path and am looking forward to where our community leads us next.”
For more information about upcoming classes and events, visit hatchspace.org.